Being an athlete and an academic can be a winning combination
- Kerry Benjoe | March 29, 2023
Lori Cambell loves a good challenge and she’s not afraid to show it.
She’s one of the players in a new reality TV show called Canada’s Ultimate Challenge. Six teams comprised of four athletes compete against one another in a series of physical challenges. Each team is coached by a Canadian sport hero.
“We got to compete in challenges with a twist, it’s different from regular sporting stuff,” said Campbell. “It was awesome.”
She’s part of Olympic gold medalist Donovan Bailey’s Red Team.
At 50, she is the oldest female and the only Indigenous two-spirit competitor on the show.
“Sometimes I competed against people less than half my age,” said Campbell. “But they called me ‘auntie,’ so it was OK.”
In her day job, she is the associate vice-president of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina. Campbell, a former college basketball player still works to keep fit, but hasn’t been involved in competitive sports for decades.
When she was approached on social media to put her name in for the show, it took a fair amount of convincing for her to do it. Even after Campbell put her name forward, she second-guessed her abilities.
“I also kept thinking, we don’t get to be in some of these spaces and who am I to throw away that opportunity to bring visibility to some of our issues and also some of our strengths,” she said. “So I chose to do it.”
As an Indigenous woman and, even more so, as an Indigenous two-spirit woman, Campbell never felt represented in mainstream media.
The eight-episode TV show premiered on Feb. 16. The winning team will win a trip to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
It’s halfway through its season and is gaining popularity. Each week, more people tune in to see the drama and the competition.
Campbell knows millions are watching and hopes Indigenous youth are part of that audience.
“The message I hope to get across, especially to Indigenous youth is, ‘We deserve to be in all spaces,’” she said.
In addition to being an Indigenous academic and athlete, she is also a 60s Scoop Survivor.
Campbell has a bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Studies, a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a graduate degree in Adult Education and is pursuing a doctorate in Social Justice Education.
Despite her long list of academic credentials, it was her love of sports that motivated her to enroll in university. Campbell is grateful for the opportunities sports continue to provide.
New episodes of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge air every Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem. Past episodes are available on CBC Gem.